As president-elect of the student council at his high school in rural Wisconsin, Adam Michalowski ’19 gave a speech to the local Board of Education in the spring of his junior year, demanding greater community involvement in the management of the district.
“There had been rumblings about community members and teachers not having enough of a say in school board decisions: Everyone was talking, meeting in coffee shops and grocery stores, but nobody really did anything,” Michalowski told the News, reflecting on his adolescence in the town of Manawa. “I thought, ‘Everyone’s mad about this, what can we do?’ The easiest thing is to make a statement back to the school board.”
After it was quoted in a local newspaper, Michalowski’s speech set off a firestorm of criticism that culminated in the resignations of several unpopular board members and the formation of a new long-term planning committee for the district made up of students, teachers and parents.
“I had a really good experience with it,” he said. “I’ve seen important reforms and change come out of political advocacy.”
Three years later, Michalowski is running to succeed Peter Huang ’18 as president of the Yale College Council.
Since announcing his candidacy last week, Michalowski has laid out a platform focused on three key themes: financial aid reform, particularly the elimination of the student income contribution; greater accessibility to Yale College courses; and improvements to the understaffed Mental Health & Counseling services. In addition to those University-wide initiatives, Michalowski has also proposed internal changes to the YCC, including an accelerated timetable for the Spring Fling planning process.
Michalowski is familiar with the mechanisms of political reform at Yale. Last year, he served on the YCC’s LGBTQ task force, whose central recommendations — gender-neutral housing, a preferred name option on official documents and the expansion of the Office of LGBTQ Resources — have all been adopted by the Yale administration.
“That’s what YCC is: finding the issues that really, really matter that nobody is talking about and getting everyone to come together and see it through to the end,” Michalowski said.
Max Goldberg ’17, who oversaw the task force, said Michalowski worked exceptionally hard, picking up the slack when other members missed deadlines. At the end of the semester, Adam copy edited the group’s entire report on his own, Goldberg said.
“He had an amazingly good sense of the goals we were working towards and breaking those down into manageable steps for getting there,” Goldberg said. “That’s a very important skill for a YCC president.”
As a gay teenager growing up with a single mother in a conservative town, Michalowski struggled to come to terms with his identity and visited a mental health counselor for years. When he started at Yale in fall 2015, he became the first student in the history of his high school, Little Wolf JR/SR High School, to attend an Ivy League university.
Michalowski is known as an ambitious and gregarious student with a wide circle of friends. Robert Proner ’19, his roommate in Branford, described Michalowski as compassionate and empathetic — qualities he believes will make Michalowski an excellent spokesman on issues like mental health.
“He has this capacity to simultaneously be passionate and wildly optimistic about YCC but also realistic and pragmatic about what it can accomplish,” Proner said.
At the same time as he campaigns for YCC, Michalowski is also running uncontested for the position of executive director of the Yale International Relations Association, the largest undergraduate organization at the University. But Michalowski dismissed concerns that a leadership role with YIRA would take time away from his responsibilities with the YCC.
“There are enough hours in the day to do both of those jobs in the absolute fullest capacity that they demand,” Michalowski said. “I truly, truly care about the issues that I’m dealing with in [YCC and YIRA] and can’t imagine my time at Yale without both of them.”
Britton O’Daly contributed reporting.